My son Kevin, a hard hat diver stationed in Korea recently called to say he was being sent to Hamburg, Germany for some specialized training. Having not seen him in a year I quickly jumped at the chance to fly over and see him, figuring Germany was a bit closer than Korea. Also, being the city of my birth I was looking forward to seeing it again and reconnecting with some old friends.
Living in Korea where a good sausage is hard to find, Kevin was super excited to be heading to the land of wurst, schnitzel and beer. I on the other hand am not a beer drinker so I figured it was a good time to taste the wine of the Rhineland and went about sampling Riesling at every opportunity. Since I was only there for a week I didn’t really have the time to travel too far so a wine tasting tour was out of the question but I wasn’t too worried since most restaurants offered a fairly good selection.
A white grape variety that originated in the Rhine region of Germany it’s used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. Seldom oaked they are among the world’s top 20 most grown varietals and often included in the “top three” white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc.
While my son attended his training program I spent the first few days wondering the city and found the street where I spent the first years of my life. It seemed only vaguely familiar but emotional none the less as it made me feel connected to my past and especially to my parents who have long since passed.
I walked for hours wanting to get a feel for the city and came across a wine store where I popped in to check out the selection and speak o the owner. She said one of the most popular Rieslings they sold was by J.B. Becker and that it was so popular she was actually sold out at the moment. I opted for a bottle of Kallfelz Riesling to try and since my son doesn’t like wine there was no reason to share this lovely find. Albert Kallfelz is actually the most widely decorated Riesling producer in all of Germany and comes from a family who has been producing wine for over 500 years.
Kevin and I had a wonderful time together enjoying the sights and sounds of the city. We did all the touristy things like taking the city’s double decker bus and taking the harbour tour.
The visit was much too short but Kevin’s hunger for bratwurst and beer had been satisfied and I was thrilled to have spent some quality time with my son who I had sorely missed. There’s definately a special bond between mothers and sons but I know my husband and Kevin’s brother also miss him so for next year we’re planning a half-way family gathering in Hawaii. It should be great fun having everyone together…sun, sand, surfing and more but do they have good wine in Hawaii?
When you live in the burbs and downtown is an eighty dollar cab ride away, going out with friends to a nice restaurant can get expensive. So how do you enjoy a delicious meal, good wine, the company of great friends without the big bill?
Well, a few years ago I approached three couples in my neighbourhood that we regularly hang out with and suggested we form a dinner club to get us through the long boring winter and they loved the idea. Once a month we hold a progressive dinner, traditionally done by starting at one person’s house for appetizers, moving to the next for the main meal and again to another house for dessert. This seemed like way too much work so I changed the rules.
Each month one couple holds the dinner at their house and they’re in charge of the main meal while the others provide the appetizer, soup or salad and then dessert. We rotate the houses and who makes what, ensuring the same person doesn’t get stuck making the same thing each time. Everyone gets dressed up (no jeans allowed) so it feels like a special evening and the dinners are themed on international cuisine, or even an event like the Oscars. Each course is paired with a wine, beer or cocktail that suits the dish or at least we give it the good old college try.
One members of the group is a true foodie (I think his TV is stuck on the Food Network) and this time around he thought we should switch it up so he came up with a bunch of cooking challenges and then picked four out of a hat. Here’s what we wound up with:
Food made with fire
Breakfast for Dinner
Pizza as a comfort food
Food based on a colour
The categories were assigned and you could get as creative as you wanted and here’s what we ended up with:
Chicken skewers and roasted veggies on the grill paired with Cave Spring Riesling from Ontario
Devilled eggs with smoked salmon & capers along with white and sweet potato Rosti – a Swiss hash brown paired with Italian Proseco
Wings with Blue Cheese dip on a pizza -this was amazing and the hit of the night (no wine – the boys said it had to be beer) see recipe below
RED velvet cake pair with Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine
There was lots of good wine, and some not so good (Girl’s Night Out is not really a wine – more of a cooler if you must know) lots of laughs and best of all we could all just walk home
Buffalo Wing Style Chicken Pizza
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cooked and cubed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (2 ounce) buffalo wing sauce
1 (8 ounce) bottle blue cheese salad dressing (Renee’s is great for this)
1 (16 inch) prepared pizza crust
1 (8 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Cook up the 2 chicken breasts in a pan then cube
In a medium bowl combine the cubed chicken, melted butter and wing sauce. Mix well.
Spread half the bottle of salad dressing over crust, then top with chicken mixture and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Bake in preheated oven until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 5 to 10 minutes. Let set a few minutes before slicing, and serve.
It’s enough to force you off the street and into the closest SAQ (Quebec’s answer to the LCBO).Excuses, excuses …. pretty much any time you visit Montreal is a good reason for a stop at the SAQ.
Searching for Wine in an April Snowstorm
My mother has gotten used to the fact that even after spending five hours in the car, my first pit stop is the small but well-stocked liquor store around the corner from her place. She stopped taking offence after I made sure I also stocked her up with her favourites.
They have their version of Vintages. Many have a tasting bar. And they have incredibly helpful staff. But there are a few differences:
Fans of French wines will be overjoyed by the SAQ which has a richer selection of wines from France. There are Italian wines that are only available on consiognment in Ontario. But sorry Quebec, whenever you can find the same wines in both provinces, the LCBO version is typically cheaper.
Another difference – the tasting philosophy. LCBO is very strict about making sure you taste no more than a total of 2 oz of wine (4 x 1.2 oz – that math combination I have learned well!).
In Quebec, it’s pretty much self-serve. Load a few bucks on to your tasting card and keep tasting until your card runs dry. Now I haven’t spent a whole day there, so maybe someone would eventually get thrown out, but the expectation is you know better than to drink too much at the liquor store.
This time I tasted a FANTASTIC Saint-Joseph from the Northern Rhone quite aptly named Hedonism. SO good that a bottle of this sexy red ended up in the cart. 100% Syrah, it exudes luscious strawberries and spice. This one is medium to full bodied like most Saint-Joseph reds and would go nicely with a juicy beef burger or beef stew. Yum. WIne Spectator gave it an 89 rating.
Alcohol 13% $27.40 SAQ
Here are the some of others that made it into my Mom’s personal tasting room.
Valley of the Giants Cabernet-Merlot 2009 from Western Australia $16.95 This very affordable Australian was flying off the shelves. Excellent value.
There are so many ways to appreciate a good glass of wine. You can buy a case, tell a friend, and if you are a musician, write a song about it. How many songs can you think of with wine in the title?
The most bizarre, best known,with a title that makes me strangely sad:
Spill the Wine– Eric Burdon and War (1970)
According to Wikipedia – the inspiration came from Lonnie Jordan – founding member of the band War, who accidentally spilled a glass of wine all over the mixing board. Rock and Roll legend Eric Burdon thought it was so funny, he and Jordan wrote a song about it. That explains the Wine, but not the Gnome, which always made me think of Twin Peaks.
This title makes me happy: Red, Red Wine – UB40 – (1984)
Neil Diamond wrote and performed this song lamenting a lost love by drowning his sorrows in red wine. It made it to number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1968. UB40’s reggae-style version spun the tune to the top of the charts around the world, hitting number one in the US when it was re-released in 1988.
Days of Wine and Roses – Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer (1962)
This song picked up an Oscar for best original song from the movie of the same name. It went on to be performed by greats Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams. The film was a brilliant and tragic tale of two average people whose lives are devastated by alcoholism. (ok, that’s a real downer for a wine blog – but the performances are truly incredible).
How deep is the love:
Poison and Wine – Civil Wars – 2009
This haunting tune by the fabulous Nashville duo John Paul White and Joy Williams looks at the good, the bad and the ugly of relationships (and I firmly believe the wine part = the good). I first heard it on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The song is on their album Barton Hollow which debuted as #1 on the ITunes Singer-Songwriter chart.
Cracklin’ Rosie –Neil Diamond – 1970
Wait a minute – I thought this song was about a spunky gal named Rosie or a store-bought love doll. Wrong! Cracklin’ Rosie is a bottle of cheap sparkling wine with a Canadian connection. This was Diamond’s first #1 hit and he got the idea from a folk tale about a native tribe in Northern Canada where the men far out-numbered the women (have you ever been to Fort McMurray?). The guys who didn’t get the girl on a Saturday night– got a bottle of Cracklin’ Rosie. Re-reading the lyrics with that in mind gives the song a whole new perspective.
“Cracklin’ Rose, get on board/ We’re gonna ride till there ain’t no more to go/ Taking it slow/ Lord, don’t you know/Have made me a time with a poor man’s lady”
Those are just some of the titles that hit the charts. Imagine how many wine-inspired tunes sounded great ….until the morning after.
With wine consumption in Canada growing faster than anywhere in the world, it’s not surprising that wine bars are popping up on main streets and neighbourhoods right across the country. And happily one of those neighbourhoods is mine. Over the past few years, Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood has become a favourite of foodies – for brunch, dinner or a glass of wine.
From Pic Nic Wine Bar at 747 Queen St. East with its fabulous charcuterie platters and 25 wines by the glass, to Enoteca Ascari at 1111 Queen Street East which has a menu of interesting wines three times longer than the food selections. Both places have a great atmosphere with staff who love talking about interesting wine finds.
But a new wine bar came to town just before Christmas and it could very well become a regular stop after I took my daughters there a couple of weeks ago.
We stopped into Skin and Bones Wine Bar for a drink and settled in for a lot more. There are some 40 wines available by the glass, most if not all, are only available on consignment. And there are some great choices.
I picked a Merlot Seven Hills 2009 from Walla Walla, Washington. This one was deep red, and deeply delicious. Fruity with silky tannins – it was my first choice and I committed with a 6 oz glass.
My second was my favourite – Paolo Bea Sanvalentino 2007 is a blend of Sangiovese, Sagrantino and Montepulciano grapes. This lovely wine from Umbria has structure and elegance.
While my eldest daughter was lured in by the sexy cocktails, my younger daughter took up the wine list challenge. She picked two: the Ribolla Gialla La Tunnella, 2011 from Friuli -Venezia region in north- eastern Italy. Light bodied with and interesting flavour from a grape that I had never tasted.
But it was the Marc Bredif Vouvray 2011 that won her taste buds, hands down. The pale gold wine from France’s Loire region is made from the Chenin Blanc grape. She found it fresh and fruity and wants me to add it to her list of faves that I serve with Sunday night dinner.
NB: If you are looking for a white and want to try something beyond the world of Chardonnay – Vouvray has been getting some great buzz and is worth a try. The bonus is it reasonably priced.
There are all kinds of interesting wines to taste. Niagara wines are represented with a Cuvee Catherine Estate Blanc de Blanc Carte Blanche 2007 sparkling from Henry of Pelham, a Riesling Stellalucha 2009 from Colaneri and a Cabernet Franc Dolomite Cave Spring Cellars 2008. There is a wine from Greece, others from the lesser travelled regions or wines from grapes that are not the typical headliners. I could have sampled all night.
The atmosphere at Skin and Bones is pleasant and spacious. The bar goes on for ever. The service couldn’t have been better. Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable and didn’t twitch when I asked if he could bring the bottles to the table for a little photo op. Oh and the other headline from Skin and Bones – the food also worth the visit. It is not an extensive menu, but what we sampled was simple and delicious. Check out the menu at www.skinandbonesto.com.
While I have heard complaints about an influx of wine bars in the area – I say bring ’em on!
The holiday season may be over but the crop of new wines that hit the LCBO last week are worth celebrating. They include some promising Spanish wines worthy of exploration along with a great selection of BC wines. While I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting either place, I can say I am a big fan of their wines.
Chardonnay’s from the Mission Hill estate, the awesome Pinot Noir from Burrowing Owl, or the Bordeaux Blends of Osoyoos Larose, there is gold in them thar BC vineyards and finally they are available in the east.
I sampled the Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2010 VGA from the Okanagan Valley – it is a splurge to doubt at $41.95. It is supremely balanced with strong notes of cherry and other red fruit.
There is rarely a Rioja that has brought me disappointment in my wine tasting life. It could be luck, or it could be great wine-making – I like them big and bold and plan to get better acquainted with my friends from Rioja, Navarra, and my pick for the weekend : Virgen Del Aguila Artigazo 2007 from DO Carinena – just south of Rioja region $18.95.
I admit I did try a couple of the other new releases that are absolutely worth the splurge.
I Greppi Greppicante Bolgheri 2009 DOC from the west coast of Tuscany – which is super Tuscan territory. This is beautifully smooth, complex, fruit forward with rich tannins and a lovely finish. It is $23.95 and worth the splurge.
My other splurge-worthy suggestion is by a favourite Australian wine maker that has never disappointed, Mollydooker The Maitre D’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 from South Australia. The deep purple colour and black cherry jammy flavour characterizes the full-bodied and luscious wine. The finish is long, fruity and entirely worth the price. Buy two, one to drink now and one to save for later. Oh and their labels are delightful. $29.95
Finally if you can still find it, Three Rivers River’s Red from Columbia Valley, Washington – I may have mentioned it before because it was one of my favourite wines from my wine class. But if you haven’t tried it yet, hurry while there are still bottles left. At $19.95, it is a real bargain.
Give them a try or explore the LCBO’s new bounty and let us know If you have sampled a wine worth sharing.
The connection between wine and music is a marriage made in heaven, not just because it is the combination of two of my favourites things, or even because I can’t imagine my life without either, but there is actually a science behind the power of this pairing.
Throw a little ACDC on the sound system and you might describe the red you are sipping as as punchy or bold, while those Pat Metheny tunes will have you calling a white wine light and crisp. A study out of Herriot – Watt University in Edinburgh suggests the music you are listening to affects the way it tastes and certain kinds of music will make the wine taste better.
Research out of the University of Leicester in the UK found that music can also affect the kind of wine you buy. So listening to Tony Bennett Leaving his Heart in San Francisco while shopping could lead you to a lovely Napa Valley red – while sultry French songstress Edith Piaff could send you directly into the Bordeaux aisle.
There are web sites dedicated to music and wine pairings. WIneandMusic.com – tells us Katy Perry’s Teenage Dreams goes nicely with 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel 2007, or Maroon 5’s Hands All Over is perfectly paired with d’Arenberg’s Stump Jump. The web site’s philosophy is “Wine is like music, you may not know what is good, but you know what you like.”
Another web site dedicated to harmonic pairings, WineFoodMood.com – combines beat of the music and wine style – so fast-paced and energetic tunes like Abba is best consumed with something easy drinking – like a Beaujolais. Most of the research focuses on how our wine decisions and appreciation are influenced by music.
You don’t have to look far to see more evidence of the marriage of music and wine. For example, AC/DC Back in Black Shiraz, the Rolling Stones Forty Licks Merlot, or Sting’s Tuscan creation Sister Moon – clearly wine appreciation extends to all musical genres.
A Calfornia winery out of Mendocino County called Wines that Rock produces Forty Licks Merlot and that’s just the beginning. Wines That Rock calls itself the official wine of rock and roll. Its mission: to “create great tasting wines inspired by music.” http://www.winesthatrock.com/The-Wine. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon, Police’s Synchronicity Red Blend, Woodstock Chardonnay – the labels are amazing and the reviews pretty great, too.
According to the website, winemaker Mark Beaman has music blasting through the cellar while working his magic. He even has playlists for harvesting (including U2, Smashing Pumpkins, Led Zepplin and Dire Straits) and for blending (Fleetwood Mac, Police, Pink Floyd and The Red Hot Chili Peppers).
A small winery in Tuscany believes the love affair goes both ways.. It uses the power of music to coax the best out of its grapes.
Il Paradiso di Frassina plays Mozart to its vines 24 hours a day. Owner Giancarlo Cignozzi believed playing music to the vines would enhance their flavour – and make Giancarlo happy at the same time. A civil lawyer from Milan, he bought the vineyard in 1999 and brought his love of music with him.
Whether classical music makes the vines go stronger, or if it is merely a marketing tool, it is an effective one. Il Paradiso has become known as the Mozart Vineyard. Every major wine publication along with the international media has come to call and to sample.
“We became known as the people who play music to the grapes. They thought we were nuts,” says Ulisse Cignozzi, Giancarlo’s son who gave us the tour.
The speaker people at BOSE believed enough to donate 100 speakers to the cause. The University of Florence took notice and is currently involved in a long term study to see if there is science to support the theory. Ulisse says it’s too early to tell, but there are some initial findings that suggest the grapes respond to sound.
“We noted the sugar content is higher in grapes that are closer to the speakers,” he says.
One of the wines under the influence that we sampled, a Brunello di Montalcino 2007 was full-bodied and delicious. While I haven’t found it in the LCBO, Zoltan Szabo – sommelier at Toronto’s Trump International Hotel and Tower stocks it at the hotel.
Another wine, though not grown in the shadow of the speakers, accompanies the musical theme. 12 Uve (12 grapes) features 12 different varietals – 6 Italian, 6 Bordeaux – one for each note on the musical scale.
There’s no shortage of interest in the pairing of music and wine closer to home. Mount Royal University in Calgary offers a course in music and wine pairings. www.Mtroyal.ca
Jackson-Triggs holds a spectacular concert series each summer, a perfect example of the harmonious blend of good music and good wine – www.jacksontriggswinery.com
The Outside Lands Festival near San Francisco even hired a wine curator to pair wines with the music performances on the menu.
“We’re creating a new platform where all these pleasure points in our life – eating, drinking and music,” curator Peter Eastlake told Wine Spectator earlier this year.
True, because there is nothing more pleasureable than a tasting a great glass of wine – at any price, while listening to the perfect piece of music.
Slainte (cheers in Gaellic – pronounced Slawn-tcha)
The tree is bare, the decorations packed away and you’ve rung in the New Year. Like most people you’ve probably made some resolutions – lose weight (definitely the number one), join a gym, stop smoking, and maybe even drink less (probably just because of the calories). But realistically how long do these resolutions last, a month at most? So, maybe better than a resolution how about an inspiration. There must be things you’ve wanted to do but just haven’t had the time, like more travelling (there’s exercise in there somewhere or reading a good book – kind of like exercise for the brain) are you sensing a theme?
I for one would also like to lose weight but realise it’s no easy task. Since I’m hitting the beach some time soon rather than stressing about putting on a bathing suit (ok who am I kidding) I’ve promised myself I’d walk along the ocean every day for 30 minutes, remember inspire don’t beat yourself up. That should make up for the wine I drink on my holidays right? But since there’s no magic pill, fad diet or easy exercise that sheds the pounds, you’re looking at hard work, sweat and maybe a little a swearing when things don’t go your way. But when it comes down to calorie counting I find it easier to give up the sweets and snacks over my beloved glass of wine.
So what does a wine lover do to cut some calories? One of my strategies now that the holidays are over to is to skip that evening glass I’ve been having for dinner each night and go with wine on Friday and Saturday nights only. It’s not like this change will have me losing 20 pounds but hey every little bit counts. Depending on the wine (be it red or white) just one glass can have between 110 – 300 calories. This is based on the alcohol and sugar content and serving size.
Wines with the highest alcohol content will have more calories and if you’re a lover of those big bold reds like us these will have the most calories. The alcohol content in dry wines generally come in around 11 – 14% but you’ll often find many dry wines exceeding 15%. This means that a standard glass of dry wine with 15% alcohol content will have 175 calories. So just skipping Monday to Friday you’ll save yourself 875 calories. Since one pound equates to 3500 calories you’d only need to make this tiny change to lose one pound. So if you start now you’d lose 6 pounds by the end of June which to me seems doable.
Often sweet wines like Riesling can have fewer calories per glass than most Cabernets or Merlot but you may wind up drinking more because they taste lighter (less alcohol). But if like us you love those lovely full-bodied reds than remember you can always consider your glass of wine dessert.
Life is not about giving up the things you love most it’s about being inspired to live life to the fullest and enjoy every day like it’s your last. So raise a glass (on Friday and Saturday of course) and don’t stress about your resolutions but dream about the things you want to do in this brand new year.
What will inspire you to live life to the fullest in 2013?
Now that we’ve all had our fill of family, fun and enough food to make us feel like we should get on the treadmill, it’s time for the next round. So whether you’re planning a night on the town, a house party or a quiet night in, nothing says “Happy New Year” like a glass of bubbly.
There are lots of options out there from the budget basics to price popping high-end Champagnes. But with sparkling wines being produced around the world only those made in the Champagne region of France may truly call themselves by that name, a protection originally granted by the Treaty of Madrid in 1891.
But besides sparkling wine and Champagne there’s another name you may or may not be familiar with, one I recently learned about from Chris McDonald the chef and owner of a restaurant named in its honour, Cava located in Toronto. Recently Chris shared his knowledge of all things related to the foods and holiday traditions of Spain and presented me with a bottle of Agusti Torello Kripta. I haven’t actually tasted it yet (saving it for our New Year’s toast) but I fell in love with the bottle the moment I saw it.
Call me inquisitive or nosy but nothing makes me want to find out the facts more than something I’ve never seen before and I’ve never seen a bottle shaped like this. I don’t know if this is fact or fiction but Chris’ charming explanation made me laugh out loud. He says the bottle’s torpedo like shape is intended so you can’t put it down making it good to the last drop.
This particular cava was created in 1979 by Agusti Torello Mata a man who has dedicated his life to making great cava. The grapes come exclusively from old vineyards (over 50 years) in the Penedes area in the Catalonia region of Spain. It’s a long aging cava (minimum 4 years with the yeast) made up of 3 grape varietals Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. Each bottle is individually numbered and the beautiful label was designed by artist Rafael Bartolozzi.
The card enclosed with the beautiful box suggests this cava is ideal for caviar, smoked fish or meats, foie gras and curated cheese and I’ll just add my suggestion of oysters (because I love sparkling wine and oysters). But somehow I have a feeling this cava would go with anything. Unfortunately you won’t find this at the LCBO so if you want to give it a try you’ll need to head over to Cava on Yonge Street (website is in the blogroll) and tell Chris I sent you.
But no matter what fills your glass on December 31st here’s wishing everyone a very Happy New Year and many more.
Which one do you prefer – sparkling wine or champagne?
It’s a busy time of year with some sort of Christmas or dinner party event each weekend. But for many of us it’s a sort of marathon that includes multiple party pit stops in one night. Unfortunately there’s no Christmas Elf event planner checking your calendar so scheduling three parties into the space of 48 hours can challenge the best of us. And even though the cold weather makes us want to curl up in our jammies with a good book the festivities give us a chance to get dressed up, see friends we might not have seen in some time and enjoy some holiday treats along with a glass of wine (or two or three).
When it comes to wine etiquette be aware the wine you bring may not be served since it’s generally considered a gift for the host. If you really want to drink the wine you bring make sure to bring two, one for the host’s cellar and the other for the party. And by all means if you feel like bringing more do so as it gives people the chance to taste different styles they may not have enjoyed before.
The best thing about wine is there’s so many styles to choose from. If you know your host loves a particular grape go for something different, wine is an adventure and meant to be explored. If your host is a wine lover/connoisseur don’t feel intimidated to spend big bucks on a bottle because these days there are tons of great buys around the $20 mark.
But boasting about the price is definitely a faux pas whether it’s the amazing find that only cost you ten bucks or the French Bordeaux you broke the budget on.
Often when people host a party with a large number of guests they go for the cheap and cheerful so as not to break the bank. Remember if the host pours you something you’re not particularly fond of, battle back your inner wine snob and smile. Then hunt down something to nibble on because food can quickly make any wine more palatable.
And even as you dream of drinking that lovely bottle of Barberesco you brought to the party remember to be a good guest, sit back and enjoy the music and know that sometimes cheap and cheerful can be a whole lot of fun.